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Toxic! was a weekly full-color comic book originally published in 1991. Although short-lived (releasing only 31 issues), the comic had ambitious intentions, and aimed to be a way for authors to retain the rights of their work while gaining exposure. Toxic! was the brainchild of Pat Mills (1949), John Wagner (1949), Alan Grant (1949), Mike McMahon, and Kevin O’Neil (1953). It was a more adult-oriented comic and featured stories of anarchistic violence, horror, and sex meant to rival 2000 AD’s material. Interestingly enough, most of the Toxic! creative team had previously worked at 2000 AD.

Originally published by Apocalypse, the first few issues of Toxic!featured some characters who had already made their appearance in other comics. For example, the character Marshall Law (created by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill) had previously appeared in Marvel’s Epic imprint. But with the premise of creators having complete control, Mills and O’Neill had much more creative freedom in the way that their stories were told. They did not have to run their intentions by conservative editors who were more concerned with branding or merging creator content with the publisher’s goals.

Pat Mills created many of the characters with the other creators in the first issues such as “Accident Man” (with Tony Skinner), “Muto-Maniac” (with Mike McMahon), “Brats Bizarre” (with Skinner),  and “Sex Warrior”(with Skinner and Will Simpson). “Sex Warrior” in particular was a prime example that the target audience of this comic was for adults. The premise of “Sex Warrior” involved a scantily-clad woman fighting with the power of her sexual energy. The later issues of Toxic! were more balanced with the other writers contributing their own characters..

Though Toxic! had good intentions of creators having complete control over their work, and made quite the first impression with its full-color content, Apocalypse reportedly never paid the creators. Due to the increased stress and lack of funds, some of the creators quit, taking their creations with them while others refused to publish what they had created. As a result, much of the material from later issues was taken from Trident Comics, the sister company of Apocalypse. Soon the comic was canceled and Apocalypse went bankrupt.

Toxic! may not have lasted long, but its creators had great (but idealistic) ideas, especially with the creator-controlled aspect. It did influence rival comic 2000 AD to transition into a full-color comic.  Fortunately some of the ideas and characters were able to continue publication in other comics, most notably John Wagner’s “Button Man” and Al’s Baby.”

 — Michael Baker

Further Reading

  • Chapman, James. British Comics : A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books, 2012.
  • Khoury, George, ed. True Brit: Celebrating The Comic Book Artists Of England. Raleigh: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004.
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